By Claudia Dant, Wabash County Museum
Sometimes we see the end of an era. On September 30, the first step of demolition of in the 123-year-old building at 338 Market Street in Market began. Vintage Collections, owned by Dave and Laura Wilderman, opened in 2002 as a consignment antique shop. The store had a large following and many customers. It was a great place to browse and visit. You could find gifts, especially if you liked vintage items, dog toys and accoutrements, food items, coffee, clothing, dishes, books, ephemera, furniture and so much more.
In late June a windstorm damaged the roof in the century old building and then over the July 4th weekend there was heavy rain. This one-two punch was more than the old building could take. The drop ceiling in the show room began to come down. Building inspectors ruled the store too unstable to remain open. Then on Sunday morning September 22 about 11:15 a.m. there was a dull roar and a puff of dust as the roof and north wall came down.
The 1899 Mt. Carmel Register Special Souvenir and Industrial Edition highlights ”The Leader: Mt. Carmel Dry Goods at 4th and Market Streets” (the location of Vintage Collections 100 years later) as “the Fastest Growing and Most Progressive Dry Goods, Clothing and Shoe House in Southern Illinois and a Concern Whose Prosperity is Built Upon Low Prices.” To continue, “’The Leader’ is situated on the corner of Main (Market) and Fourth streets in a handsome brick building and was established three years ago. …Mr. George Clark, who has spent sixteen years of his life in Mt. Carmel, and fourteen in business on the same corner, is the general manager.” A photo shows the length of the building and trees in front of the building. One can clearly see a side door on 4th Street and a horse and buggy standing along the dirt streets. There is advertising on the side of the building but it is not legible.
“The main floor was a room 20 by 200 feet in size which was elegantly fitted and appointed. In the front was the Dry Goods Department where there was tastefully arranged the large stock of silk dress goods, woolens, ladies ready made garments, ribbons, hosiery, gloves, muslins, laces, notions of all kinds. The Shoe Department was next in order which occupied one-third of the store and held a large stock of ladies’, men’s’ and boys’ footwear. In the rear of the store was the Clothing Department where there were dozens of tables and shelves loaded with ready made garments for men and boys. Gent’s furnishing goods of all kinds in the latest and most attractive styles were in stock. On the lower floor there were Cloaks and Furs from the most expensive garments down to the cheapest capes and shawls. On the lower floor were also Carpets and Rugs, lace curtains, mattings, portieres (French word for curtain hanging over window or doorway), window shades, etc., to one’s heart content.”
“It requires ten persons constantly to handle the “Leaders” trade. The salespeople were: Misses Winnie Greer, Nellie Blood and Cora Clark and Messrs. H. E. Blood, H. H. Sharp, T. M. Floyd, Chas., Schafer and Urban Shelhorn. Miss Carrie Weisenberger is the cahier.”
Historian Gilbert Wirth shows many other businesses on this same location including Clark and Smith General Store which must have preceded the Leader store and could account for George Clark spending 16 years at the same location but the store only being there for 3 years previous to the news article being written.
We do know that from 1948 to 1953 Tilton’s Drug Service was in the building and Imbler’s Pharmacy was operating there from 1960-1962 or longer. In 1964 Elegant Home Furniture advertised in the Mt. Carmel yearbook from this location and Ed Walter ran a sports store from 1967 to 1970 before moving north about half a block. Wilderman Appliances was in the building from 1978 to 1988. In 1997 Houchins Appliance was at that location. Vintage Collections opened in 2002.
In the rear of the building, facing 4th Street, were several business concerns over time. The Mitchell Company and J. M. Mitchell Company, Investments & Securities was located at 111 ½ West 4th street. The street and sidewalk slope sharply and this made it possible for 2 stories in the building above the street level. Wabash Printing Company was located next to the west at 113 W. 4th Street and published the Wabash Weekly News. Loren C. Hill was the publisher. There was also a beauty parlor upstairs. Most recently Berries and Blooms and Mt. Carmel Massage were in the back of the building.
Probably the most highly recognized place of business was a pool hall in the basement level of the building which was entered from a staircase outside the building. It had several owners over the years and must have been strictly for men. There are stories about women not allowed there. Later, into the 1960s the pool hall was more of a teen hang out.
So that’s a history lesson about 338 Market Street. The building is just a memory now but lots of people gathered on the streets to watch the demolition by Jeff Guisewite, Inc. of Mt. Carmel. As many as 3 excavators were used to sort, move, crush and demolish the building over a 4-day period and the lot is now nicely filled, leveled and grass has been planted. So many cars drove slowly past to see the fallen building and the demolition. Another landmark is gone but the memories still linger.